Unusual European Easter Traditions

Europe is a diverse and old continent that has many traditions handed down from generation to generation. This applies at Easter as much as any other time of the year. Depending on where you are over the Easter period you might find yourself on the receiving end of a whip, splashing perfume over a young lady, reading a mystery novel, gathered around a bonfire, or watching a cart explode in display of fireworks and pyrotechnics.

Of course Easter in Europe features many of the same traditions that we have here in New Zealand, but here are some of the more unusual customs.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, Easter Monday is the day of the pomlázka. This is something that would not look out of place on the Fifty Shades of Grey movie as it involves young Czech men symbolically whipping the legs of young girls.

The tradition dates back centuries and in pagan times it was thought it got rid of illness. It is still practiced in many villages and small towns, but it is now done purely for fun - providing the girls on the receiving end are willing participants, of course.


In Hungary women are not whipped, but in times past they would have had buckets of water thrown over them. Again, this is an Easter Monday tradition and appears to have a similar origin and meaning as the pomlázka in the Czech Republic.

Today the practice is much more gentile, with men sprinkling perfume on women instead of drenching them with water. The women reward the men with chocolate and shots of pálinka.


In Germany, as in several other European countries, bonfires are a central part of the Easter celebrations. They take place on Easter Sunday and modern versions are social events where a lot of beer is often consumed.

The original bonfires, several hundreds of years ago, were a pagan ritual to mark the beginning of spring in the hope that the summer harvest would be successful.


A more Christian tradition takes place every Easter Sunday in Florence in Italy. It is called the Scoppio del Carro and takes place during mass. The event sees a cart laden with fireworks lit in a spectacular explosion at Piazza del Duomo. Its history dates back to the Crusades.


A much more sedate Easter tradition is practiced by many in Norway. It involves reading murder mystery novels, or watching murder mysteries on television. The tradition takes over the nation during Easter as the television schedules fill up with mystery programming, and book shops display newly released novels.

All of this demonstrates the rich diversity and long history that is evident throughout Europe. As mentioned earlier the supermarkets in European countries look much the same as those in New Zealand at Easter, with shelf after shelf stocked full of overpriced Easter eggs. And children spend their time going on Easter egg hunts, and decorating eggs.

But there are also rich, and unusual, traditions and customs that you might see if you are ever in Europe over the Easter period.


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